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R&D expenditures and firm growth – is small beautiful?

Andrin Spescha

Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 2019, vol. 28, issue 2, 156-179

Abstract: This paper examines how efficiently different groups of firms use their R&D expenditures. To this end, it investigates how the empirical relationship between firms' R&D expenditures and their sales growth varies with different values of firm size, firm age, and the number of firms in the respective industry. Using panel data for Switzerland ranging from 1995 to 2012, the paper finds that smaller, more mature firms show a more positive relation between R&D expenditures and sales growth than both relatively larger or younger firms. The paper argues that, on the one hand, these firms can benefit from various small size advantages in the R&D process, such as more motivated researchers, caused by a stronger connection to the firm's fate. On the other hand, these firms can also benefit from a well-established R&D department that allows absorbing the latest technological developments. The paper further finds that industries consisting of many small firms show a more positive relation between R&D expenditures and sales growth than industries consisting of only a few large firms. The intuition behind this result is that industries consisting of many small firms imply more independent innovative trials, which then together result in a higher probability of discovering successful innovations. In sum, the paper finds that groups consisting of a large number of small, more mature firms spend their R&D in the most efficient way.

Date: 2019
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